Gelato recently launched local printing in Japan and South Korea, two of the largest economies in Asia which in the last century have become powerhouses on a global business scale. The east Asian capital cities of Tokyo and Seoul boast densely populated capital cities at 6,000 people and 17,000 people per square kilometer, respectively. Both countries have earned reputations as being leaders in the tech world, but are quite different from each other despite being known for their the rapid digitization.

Key summary:

  • Import rules and regulations can be challenging and sometimes difficult to navigate in Japan and South Korea - working with Gelato can eliminate this pain point and allow you to focus on your work and not governmental and industry regulations.
  • Print is still relevant in highly digitized societies and Japan and South Korea are proof of that.
  • Cultural differences, language barriers, and marketing faux pas can make or break a business deal in South Korea and Japan- see how working with Gelato can help minimize these.

Print is still relevant in highly-digitized and innovative societies

South Korea and Japan often set the benchmark in the tech world with their advanced innovations and technology. However, print still plays a major role in both societies and is still seeing growth. Direct mail, for example, is still a large part of many companies marketing strategies in Japan. Direct marketing in Japan is expected to be valued at US$ 96.2 billion in 2019¹ -- largely a mix of direct mail and e-commerce campaigns. Print is still a major player in both Japan and South Korea where they are embracing printing as a complement to digital solutions rather than an archaic way of teaching their intended audience.

While print is still completely relevant in both societies, they are beginning to take a more progressive approach to the environment and print’s impact on it. Gelato’s 90/50 goal (cut shipping by 90% and reduce print volumes by 50%) really caters to this forward approach taken by Japan and South Korea and both countries are embracing the Gelato business model as it aligns with their 21st century environmental values.

South Korea, while traditional in many of the ways it conducts business, embraces innovative companies that are solution-oriented and provide services that are mutually beneficial to all parties.

Import rules and regulations can be challenging

One of the most challenging parts of doing business on a global level is adhering to import and export regulations. The import rules can be difficult to get definitive confirmation on in both Japan and South Korea. Like most countries, these rules are subject to change at any time and can cause more stress than it is worth when having to focus your attention on the rules and regulations and not the business transaction itself.

Partnering with Gelato can ease these concerns as you won’t have to deal with this cumbersome part of the process. Printing in the country itself is not only sustainable for the environment, it is also stress-reducing as you get to bypass these ever-changing regulations and rules that may be difficult to interpret in the first place.

Protecting domestic business is vital

In Japan and South Korea, the protection of domestic businesses is not just talked about, it is actively prioritized. South Korea, in particular, holds the businesses in the country in high regard and makes it more challenging for foreign businesses to come in and enter the market. Gelato takes this into full consideration when we engage with print partners within their local communities.

Networking is also vital in South Korea and Japan if you want to successfully engage in business in the two Asian economies. It can take foreigners and outside businesses years to master the art of networking in the countries, and several businesses never are able to successfully build the rapport needed to achieve the desired partnerships. Gelato’s print partners are high-quality, vetted, and reputable companies that know the market, making it significantly easier to get your printed materials in a seamless and efficient manner.

What role does language play in business in Japan and South Korea?

Language plays a key role in the way business is conducted in both countries. While many people in Japan and South Korea have English knowledge, they may be shy to use it if they have not had the ability to practice it regularly.. This can create stress and worries on both ends. Gelato’s role is to minimize these pain points and ensure that the added stress of a language barrier vanishes and allows you to focus on what matters most to you- getting your printed material delivered on-time and to its desired destination. Gelato offers support and representation in both Japan and South Korea and is constantly fostering and maintaining relationships with top-quality print houses in both countries.

Are you planning to print in South Korea or Japan for upcoming events, shows, or meetings? If ‘yes’, translation is key. Do take this into consideration before conducting business in either market. Japanese and Korean characters will often take up more space on printed materials than English will, so be sure to adjust ahead of time to ensure everything looks exactly the way you wanted it to. Gelato’s translation partners will assist you in the process.

Having business cards on you in South Korea and Japan is also paramount when engaging in business in either country. You will find it commonplace to receive a business card with the native language on one side and English on the other. Foreign companies will often do the same when attending shows and events in Japan and South Korea as a way to respectfully cater to the local standards.

Avoid marketing faux pas in Japan and South Korea

Understanding the importance of color in marketing is crucial for different markets around the world. Even geographically close countries see different colors as having varying meaning for different things.

For example, the color white in South Korea signifies purity, innocence, and patriotism whereas in Japan it is associated with death and mourning. The color red signifies danger and warning in many countries in the West while in Japan and South Korea its associated with wealth and prosperity. On the other hand, writing someone’s name in red in South Korea can indicate that they are destined to die soon. Information like this is extremely important to be cognizant of, especially if you’re planning to print names on business cards in South Korea.

Also, avoid lazy translations from English to Japanese as some English words simply do not have the same emphasis for the Japanese audience. These are just some examples of things to keep in mind when ordering printed material in Japan or South Korea… or even simply just conducting business in either Asian country.

Gelato strives to aid your business in Japan and South Korea and make the process as seamless and pleasant as possible. It is our main goal to ensure you receive top-quality products on time and efficiently. We do this while reducing unnecessary waste and being conscious of the implications shipping and production can have on the environment.

Interested in ordering printed materials to other countries? Click below to check out some of our other articles that will be useful to you:

¹ https://www.export.gov/article?id=Japan-Direct-Marketing